Is it alright to pray angry prayers?
In my sermon yesterday, watch it here, I introduced the idea of praying angrily. I know this is not a concept we discuss much in church, but I believe we need to understand this concept in difficult times. Someone may be wondering “is it alright to pray angry prayers?” I want to answer that question for you. Let’s look back at the angry prayer Nehemiah prayed in chapter 4.
“Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.”
Nehemiah 4:4-5 NKJV
Some people have spoken words of reproach about the work Nehemiah was doing. Nehemiah wasn’t having it. He prayed retaliation, plunder, captivity, and judgement for sins against his enemies. This was not a passive prayer like “Lord, change their hearts.” No, Nehemiah went on the offensive. He’s basically calling down the wrath of God on his enemies.
We don’t usually pray like that. We’ve been taught “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” We’ve been told we “ought not speak evil of people.” We’re cautioned not to wish I’ll will on others. We were taught those things to help maintain a civil society. If we’re all going to get along we ought not speak words of anger, wrath, and rage against others. But that’s when we’re all trying to get along.
We ought not say angry words but we also ought not have to say those words. What do I mean? When others come against you as a believer and as a person, they’re not being civil. When they hurt and harm you with evil intent, your emotional response isn’t peaceful. When people do bad things and you speak out about those bad things, you shouldn’t be silent for the sake of getting along. Nehemiah wasn’t. And that got me thinking about other places where offensive, angry words were spoken about the enemies of God’s people. I was surprised when the Holy Spirit led me to the Psalms.
The Psalms was the song book of the Old Testament. It is filled with songs of praise and adoration for God. But the Psalms is also filled with declarations of doom and destruction for the enemies of God’s people. Here are a few examples.
“You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ””
Psalms 2:9 NKJV
“Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.”
Psalms 3:7 NKJV
“Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, For they have rebelled against You.”
Psalms 5:10 NKJV
“Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, And has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head, And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.”
Psalms 7:14-16 NKJV
“Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; Seek out his wickedness until You find none.”
Psalms 10:15 NKJV
This is just a small sample of harsh words offered to God in praise and prayer from the first 10 Psalms. Can you imagine wing in church and hearing the choir singing these verses?
Insert music from your favorite church song here:
Dash our enemies to pieces.
Break their cheekbones and knock out their teeth.
Pronounce them guilty and cast them out.
Make my enemies fall in their own ditches.
Break their arms and find enough wickedness to condemn them.
Today we would be appalled and shocked to hear the choir sing those verses. We would be embarrassed to hear it but these kinds of verses were sang by God’s people as they expressed themselves to him. God wasn’t embarrassed to hear this type of praise and prayer. He wasn’t appalled when his people cried out to him because of the wickedness of their enemies. He wasn’t ashamed to be glorified by delivering his people from their enemies.
So is it alright to pray angry prayers to God? Yes, it is. Is it alright to ask God to deal with your enemies? Yes, it is. Is it alright to tell God exactly how you feel and make requests for God to do exactly what you want him to do to your enemies? Yes, it is. When people come against you with hatred, wickedness, oppression, and murderous intent without cause, you have the freedom, privilege, and right to respond accordingly in prayer.